New Program Pays College Students to Develop Startups

by Dec 6, 2021

Top of our list of things we’re excited about this week? Applications are open for Startup Summer, our new program to pay collegiate founders to build out their startups!

Startup Summer is essentially a paid internship program for collegiate founders. In this case, however, the students are getting paid to work for themselves: to intern at their own startup.

Participants will work on their startups for 25 hours a week out of our coworking space in downtown Bloomington. They’ll set individualized goals for their businesses and receive personalized support.

Startup Summer is for founders who already have a minimum viable product or close to it. We know many students have businesses that are almost ready to launch, or even up and running. Startup Summer makes it possible for these founders to spend the summer positioning their startups to succeed, without having to sacrifice getting paid.

 Startup Summer will run eight weeks, from June 6 to July 29. The program includes weekly lunch and learns with experts from the startup ecosystem, mentoring from successful entrepreneurs, a chance to pitch investors for feedback, and leadership opportunities for college students to connect with K-12 students interested in entrepreneurship. Residency in Bloomington over the summer is required, as is current enrollment at Indiana University or Ivy Tech. Participants will receive a $2,000 stipend.

We developed the program in collaboration with SEEK, a member of the Kelley Institute for Social Impact at Indiana University (KISI). SEEK—the Social Enterprise Engagement at Kelley—strives to create unique, hands-on experiences that simultaneously give back to the community. SEEK connects future business leaders to socially responsible companies and instills the concept that business can be both profitable and have a positive social impact.

Since we want to offer this summer internship program to college students, we figured let’s go straight to that target market and see what they come up with — really find out what would make for an engaging program and get some validation for the concept.

Mill staff worked with the case competition team at SEEK for several weeks to write the scenario and set guidelines. Student teams had to provide programming options for the summer that would help accelerate startup growth without increasing staffing. Teams also considered housing needs, made recommendations for the application process, and identified potential grants or funding sources for the summer 2022 program and beyond.

This was SEEK’s first case competition since the onset of the pandemic. Ten teams submitted one-page proposals, and five finalists presented in-depth solutions to a panel of judges that included Mill staff, KISI Associate Director Shawna Meyer-Niederman, and two additional Kelley faculty.

The winning team nailed it! They included things like a blind review process for applicants to remove bias, a realistic and comprehensive budget, and good ideas for how to engage the ecosystem to support these collegiate entrepreneurs. We learned about ten new potential sources for funding, thanks to the case competition. All the student teams showed an impressive commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The energy and intelligence we saw in the SEEK case competition students came as no surprise to us. We meet exceptional collegiate founders at The Mill all the time, and we’re excited to offer Startup Summer to help nurture their talents!

Applications for Startup Summer are open now and close on January 28. The Mill will accept up to 6 participants (co-founders may apply together). For more information, visit